My fat arm got stuck in a park bench in the supermarket. The park bench was, of course, not in a park, so maybe it couldn’t really be called a park bench. But it was the same kind of bench that one would find in a park. Say you’re walking around the cement walk track to get some of that exercise that you feel you should be getting because you eat too much ice cream and too many hot dogs and you drive everywhere in your air-conditioned car. You see this bench and decide to sit down on it. That kind of park bench is the same kind that was in this supermarket.
I was walking around thinking about buying some groceries. The only item that I’d seen that I needed and wanted was a plastic container of mustard. I picked it up and continued walking through the store. My mother called me on my cell phone and asked me to pick up her prescription. She had called in to this supermarket that was so big it had its own pharmacy to have them fill her prescription. She didn’t trust herself driving because she was getting older and her reflexes were slowed down (going on 70), and had given her car to her favorite granddaughter, my youngest niece, for her 18th birthday. She needed me.
My mother tried to be very self sufficient, and didn’t have to ask me, her only child still in town, to pick up prescriptions all that often, because she usually bought her medicine at the discount Medicare rate by sending off for 3-month mail order supplies. She did this with her insulin and her blood pressure pills. Newer and experimental medicines didn’t come that way, like the new pills that her cancer doctor was prescribing for her blood cancer. They seemed to be working, so she was going to keep taking them. Things that she thought didn’t work or that embarrassed her, she gave “to the birds.” She gave her wheelchair to the birds because she didn’t like to be seen in it even though she couldn’t walk very far because the arthritis made her feet hurt after five steps in the mall. She gave sitcoms to the birds because they were just silly. She gave two of her pain medications to the birds because they didn’t work like a good hot Epsom salt soak did.
I was at the store anyway. I said, okay.
The section of the store which housed the pharmacy as well as the over the counter drugs also had a waiting area. In this waiting area there was a blood pressure checker and a large set of scales. I didn’t want to step on the scales as it would make me want to go walk around the track some more. I didn’t want to check my blood pressure as it would tell me that I needed to quit eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes and big salads with lots of ranch dressing and pineapple sundaes every Sunday after church when I went to the dinner buffet with my pastor and his family. They always invited me because I was an old maid. Nobody in the church said that to me to my face, but I knew they all thought it. People would come up to me and say, So and So “is getting married. You should go to the wedding to catch the bouquet.” Wink wink. Or, “My uncle is looking for some nice lady to come by and cook some dinner for him next Tuesday night.” Why were they asking me to cook for some jackass? I didn’t need pandering.
I went to the Prescription Drop-off Counter and asked them if they had my mother’s prescription ready. The nice girl there told me no, not yet, and to come back in twenty minutes.
I didn’t have anything better to do, and I had been walking around that supermarket for 30 minutes already, and for 20 of those with that non-breakable, no-spills, plastic mustard container, so, I sat down in the waiting area. The waiting area consisted of one small 2 foot by 2 foot table and one park bench. On the table was a stack of pamphlets advising people over 35 to get monthly heart check-ups to help prevent and predict heart disease; there were also two magazines: Women’s Health Monthly and Better Homes and Gardens. I picked up the Better Homes. I put my mustard down on the bench beside me.
Some nice stuff in that magazine. I became enthralled by the many ways I could revamp my bathroom tiling: clean, polish, lightly spray paint, accenting. The magazine article on the subject was more of a jumping off point for my own thoughts on the subject as I’d wanted to do something with the tile for a long time. This article told me that everyone else was doing it because it was THE summer project and there were twenty different low cost to high cost ways of doing it. I could do it my own way, and then write in to Better Homes and Gardens and tell them about way number 21 and then they would give me my own column.
My mother’s name was called, time to pick up her medication. I put the magazine back on the little table and I reached over to get my mustard. Something happened. I don’t know if I didn’t grab it right and it accidentally slipped, or if I pushed it with my palm instead of gripping it, or what. But the little yellow bottle went through the space between the back slats and the seat slats. Why that space is there, I don’t know. Why I stuck my fat arm through that space to get my mustard I don’t know either.
I couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t reach the mustard. I couldn’t squeeze my arm back out. I’d pushed it through and the small sleeve on my short sleeve shirt got pushed up cause I’d pushed my arm so far in. I could think of some nasty things I’d done with my arm and had put my arm further in some places that one would have thought an arm would or should go. But I won’t talk about that because it was a different time and I was experimenting. But now my arm was stuck in this dumb park bench in a supermarket. They’d have to saw this bench apart. Or grease up my arm with butter or sexual lubricant to get it out.
My mother’s name was called again. A passer-by asked if I needed help. I said no. I was just reaching for this mustard that I’d dropped. I started sweating. A 52-year-old heavyset woman sweats a lot under stress. I sweat even more than the average husky woman, must be my genes. Usually husky is only used to describe 8-15 year old fat boys. I think middle aged heavy women can use it too.
A manager came by and said, “Ma’am, I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my supermarket. Heh heh.” He had a socket wrench in his hand and said, “I saw you bent over this bench here on the security camera, so I thought I might come and be of some assistance.”
I told him he must not see too many strange things, I was just a normal lady. He got me out of the situation with a few clicks of the socket wrench and he handed me my mustard.
I forgot the prescription, and went to my car. I had to go back and get it a few hours later, and a different nice girl at the counter asked if my arm was okay. I asked her what she was talking about. She said, “Oh, everyone knows about the bench thing. That was so funny. I got to watch it on the security camera tape when I came in.”
I said, “It’s fine. Thanks.” I hate that store.
Dr. Aizlyn B is a professor of economics at NYU. Much of her latest academic research focuses on commodities trading and futures, by which she means condiments trading and futures, by which she means she is interested in the mustard of the future. She abhors mustard. Aizlyn lives in NYC.